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Echo Director Sydney Freeland on Game-changing Indigenous Visibility

Echo Director Sydney Freeland on Game-changing Indigenous Visibility

<p><em>Echo</em> Director Sydney Freeland on Game-changing Indigenous Visibility </p>
Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ Echo

The director and executive producer, who is Indigenous and trans, talks about the importance of tracing Maya Lopez's matrilinial heritage.

The Marvel television universe is becoming more expansive with the recent release of Echo, featuring Alaqua Cox as the kick-ass Indigenous, deaf lead character, Maya Lopez. Though Hawkeye fans will recognize Lopez from that Disney+ series, Cox’s starring role in Echo is a benchmark for new storytelling. Executive producer and director of the series, Sydney Freeland, says the character resonates with her in several ways.

“I come from multiple marginalized communities myself,” says Freeland, who is Indigenous and trans. “On paper, you look at a character who is deaf, Indigenous, and an amputee, and for myself, I say, ‘What is the human story behind this?’ For somebody like Alaqua Cox, she just brought a charisma, a presence, a toughness and grit, but also an intense emotional aspect to the character in the story that we’re able to build on.”

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Echo on Disney+Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

Before her involvement with Echo, Freeland directed the feature film Drunktown’s Finest (2014), which centered on stories of Indigenous folks. She’s also directed several episodes of TV including Reservation Dogs, The Wilds, and Fear the Walking Dead. While Echo is an action series with killer fight scenes and a gasp-inducing sequence on a moving train, the show, which costars out actor Devery Jacobs as Maya's childhood friend, also draws a thoughtful through line from Maya’s ancestors to her role in coming home to help save those in the community she left decades before.

“We knew we wanted to explore Maya’s ancestors. As things sort of evolved naturally, I think one of the things for myself, my personal background is [that] I'm Navajo, and I’m from the south reservation in the southwest United States. Maya Lopez is from the Choctaw Nation. Those are both traditional matriarchies,” Freeland says. “It was important that we were able to develop this storyline of Maya’s matrilineal bloodline. Through them, we got to explore all the different ancestors along that lineage.”

“The other aspect that made me this so unique is that because we’re engaging the Choctaw Nation we got to hear their history from their perspective,” Freeland adds. “We weren’t reading some archaeological texts about them. We got to hear about the time the events and the people that were important to them, and we tried to just sort of build on that in creating the ancestral storylines.”

Watch Advocate Channel’s full interview with Echo director and executive producer Sydney Freeland below. Echo is streaming now on Disney+.

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